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Are There Any Unexpected Benefits of Proficiency in a Second Language?

There are two forces at work during the decision-making process. One is systematic and analytical, and involves using logic and reasoning to reach an informed decision. On the other hand, emotions also play a role in decision-making, resulting in choices influenced by internal biases and preferences, and less rooted in logic. In a University of Chicago project, researchers wanted to compare how people make decisions when considering a problem in their native language versus thinking about it in a second language. They found that people tend to be more rational and less risk averse when they make decisions in a foreign language, as there are fewer emotional connections involved.

The emotional baggage of language:

  • University of Chicago researcher Sayuri Hayakawa explained that people can’t disassociate their native tongue from their emotions, which confuses logical thinking, Less emotion equates to a more rational thought process.

  • In one test, respondents were given $15 USD and asked whether to bet $1 on a coin flip, where they would earn $1.50 if they won, but lose $1 if they lost. If they took all 15 bets, the odds of making money would be in their favor. The respondents were presented with this situation in English, their first language, and then in Spanish, their second language.

  • The respondents accepted the bet more often when deciding in a foreign language, 71 percent to 54 percent. “People who routinely make decisions in a foreign language might be less biased,” Hayakawa concluded, adding that they seemed to demonstrate “less myopic loss aversion.”

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More Info: The Huffington Post

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